24th July 2022
Reflection (and readings below)
I am still shocked when I hear of climate activists who risk sitting in roads to highlight the emergency, or sit on oil tankers to prevent them moving, or blockade Amazon warehouses because of their casual treatment of workers, or break the glass doors of banks that support the fossil fuel industry, or of news agencies which obscure the truth. I am heart broken when I hear of them being arrested and imprisoned. Yet I see that they are following in the footsteps of the prophets of old, standing up against injustice, speaking truth to authority, and doing so in deeds just as much as in words.
How can we not be shocked by today’s reading from Hosea. What bravery and self abasement did it take for Hosea to go and find and marry a prostitute? And not even a ‘reformed’ prostitute. Read carefully and you will notice that the first child Jezreel is certainly Hosea’s son, but are the next two children? And what of Gomer? Are we not shocked that she should be in such a position that prostitution is a viable and acceptable way of making a living? We wonder what choices she had had in life.
Through this lived narrative, God is pointing out to the people that they have behaved like a prostitute. They have not been faithful to God but have sought out other bodies to satisfy their needs and give them direction, to worship and imitate. They have spurned integrity and uprightness to follow whims and fancies, to chase after the illusions of wealth and happiness. God pulls no punches as to the severity of the consequences of their choices.
Whilst the passage from Hosea tells us of humanity’s inclination to stray away from God and from God’s way, the letter to the Colossians describes human lives rooted deep in God, built up and bound in place by a whole hearted faith in God through Jesus Christ, that allows for no deviation from the ways of God. It is a way of life that makes one fully alive! This sounds so amazing, I puzzle that we find it so difficult to live out in our own lives and to share with others – but I know that we do struggle.
Last Saturday I took part in a Christian Aid event called Talking Climate Justice. During the two plus hours of talk, questions and conversation, we focused on two issues: the climate crisis and climate justice. Both are integral to the Christian calling: the climate crisis because we humans have caused what is damaging the world God created, and climate justice because the effects of the crisis are disproportionately affecting those who contributed least to it, and because the distribution of resources is such that these same people have a disproportionately small share and are – financially – ill equipped to cope with the crisis. As those called to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbour as ourself, we are failing big time. We are like the people Hosea is addressing, whereas we want to be like the people Paul is addressing! How do we achieve the turn around we desire, both for the climate and for our neighbours across the globe?
The gospel gives us the answer: prayer and action. The Lord’s Prayer invites both. We are to hallow God, to declare God’s holiness in prayer. We are to seek God’s kingdom, to live according to that regime. We are to pray everyday for what we need – and be satisfied. We are to both seek forgiveness, and forgive, and make good where we are indebted. We are to ask, to search and to knock. When we knock, let us knock on the doors of businesses and institutions, corporations and governments. Let us keeping on knocking until they listen, until they open their doors to change and restitution. And when people demand change of us, we too must be willing to turn our lives round, binding them to the ways of God.
When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” So he went and took Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
And the Lord said to him, “Name him Jezreel; for in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.”
She conceived again and bore a daughter. Then the Lord said to him, “Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have pity on the house of Israel or forgive them. But I will have pity on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God; I will not save them by bow, or by sword, or by war, or by horses, or by horsemen.”
When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. Then the Lord said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not my people and I am not your God.”
Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”
1 You have been gracious to your land, O Lord, *
you have restored the good fortune of Jacob.
2 You have forgiven the iniquity of your people *
and blotted out all their sins.
3 You have withdrawn all your fury *
and turned yourself from your wrathful indignation.
4 Restore us then, O God our Saviour; *
let your anger depart from us.
5 Will you be displeased with us for ever? *
will you prolong your anger from age to age?
6 Will you not give us life again, *
that your people may rejoice in you?
7 Show us your mercy, O Lord, *
and grant us your salvation.
8 I will listen to what the Lord God is saying, *
for he is speaking peace to his faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to him.
9 Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him, *
that his glory may dwell in our land.
10 Mercy and truth have met together; *
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
11 Truth shall spring up from the earth, *
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
12 The Lord will indeed grant prosperity, *
and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness shall go before him, *
and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.
As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, `Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, `Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”